Tag Archives: Adoption Triad

Doing Right by Hope

I listen to a podcast called, Terrible, Thanks for Asking. A recent episode explored the feelings of a father and daughter who lost their wife and mother to cancer when the daughter was just a toddler. The father remarried and never really discussed his late wife, so his daughter was never sure whether it was ok to talk about her.

As I was listening to the show, I started wondering am I doing enough to make Hope feel comfortable talking about her birth family. We have a relationship with a portion of her birth family, and that has been a little hit or miss just based on Hope’s desire. I made sure that I got numerous pictures of one of her parents and they are hung prominently in our home. I have made it clear that whenever she is ready to visit her family, I’m down to make it happen. She expressed an interest in her birth mother, I looked for her and found her. When she said she was satisfied just knowing where she was but didn’t want contact, I put the info away and told her she can have it whenever she wants.

I’ve told her numerous times that if she wants to talk, I’m here. Anytime, anywhere.

And yet, I do wonder if I’ve created the right environment for Hope to feel like she can tell me what she needs around accessing her birth family.

I have learned that my daughter’s feelings about her family are complicated. There is a lot of loss, feelings of rejection, anger, but also love and affection. I know that my daughter can sign a birthday card and say that she hopes to see them soon, but when I ask to schedule a visit she says no, what she wrote was really just a pleasantry.

Early on, I fretted that her birth family would be upset that I was keeping her away from them. We are a four hours’ drive away but are connected by phone, email and social media. We’ve visited several times; of course, they would like us to visit more often. I don’t want to put up roadblocks to reunion if that’s what everyone wants. The reality is that my daughter’s idea of reunion and theirs don’t jive at this point. I’ve learned to be really honest with them about what she’s going through and how much contact she wants. Those are hard conversations to have with a family that also feels like Hope is the prodigal kid, who was lost and now found. I try to make sure that cards get sent, pictures and band concert programs are mailed so that they can see she’s doing well, but truth be told, there’s not much contact between Hope and her family.

On the daily, we don’t talk about her family of origin much either. Occasionally something will remind her of an episode from before my time and she’ll share it with me, usually something funny, sometimes something dark. The dark stuff is always very sad, and honestly, those are the stories that more often get repeated…verbatim. Therapy has helped her write some new scripts, but old habits and trauma die hard. Occasionally, I’ll ask about a parent and she’ll share a little story or shut down the conversation, depending on her mood. This is how we roll; I don’t have much to compare it to, so I guess this is normal. I listen to adult adoptees and know that it can be super complicated. I know that Hope will come into her own and decide if, how and when she wants more of a connection to her birth family. I just don’t ever want her to feel like she doesn’t have my support or that she can’t bring it up in our home. I try to follow her lead on creating and sustaining chosen connections.

On the whole, I feel like I’ve tried to create a space that supports her, values her family yet consistently prioritizes her emotional needs. It’s hard though; it’s complicated. I find myself wondering if I’m doing enough or too much sometimes. Hope is getting older; emotionally she’s still pretty young despite her gains over the last few years. I see her turning into a young adult; I see her questioning a lot of things about the world and about herself and about her personal history as she lived it and interprets it. I know in the coming years I’ll be transitioning from active parenting to a parent-guide of sorts as she comes into herself and launches into the world. I have no idea whether what I’m doing on the birth family stuff will bear fruit—or even what that means, honestly. I just know I want her to be happy and healthy, and I want her to know I’ll always ride hard for her.

I hope I’m doing right by Hope.

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Family Unions

This weekend Hope and I will travel to my mother’s hometown to join up with other descendants of my great-great grandparents. I haven’t attended a family reunion since I was a girl in grade school, so I’m excited to go see cousins from all over at a huge gathering of my people.

As I registered me and my daughter for this event, I really wondered about how Hope felt about attending this event.

Hope often remarks how large my side of our family is compared to her side. She comments on how her paternal side seems large but she just doesn’t really know many of the people even though they seem to remember her from when she was a small child.

Behaviorally, it’s clear that my daughter has found her place on my side of the family. She adores her aunts and cousins. She has relationships with her grands. We’re still working past the big emotions related to reclaiming her place on her side of her family. The visits are less frequent because of distance and emotional stability. The conversation is stilted and awkward. The perceived demands that she remember, forgive and embrace them all are hard to overcome. It’s definitely a work in progress.

But family gatherings during the holidays and summer break with my family seems substantially different than going to a family reunion. Did other descendants choose to build their families through adoption? I know of some kinship adoptions in our extended family, but there are still some relations there that just are.

Will Hope feel overwhelmed by the event—beyond her “I don’t like crowds” complaints? Will her new roots in this family be enough to make her feel safe at this event? Will she choose to blend in not mentioning our type of family or will she feel like she needs to separate herself by disclosing our adoption? How best do I make her feel safe with any choice she chooses to make?

My parents and a sister did our Ancestry DNA tests several months ago and have been intrigued and amused at the results. It’s interesting to see how DNA trickles through the bloodlines. I bought a test for Hope who at one point was very, very interested in doing her test, and then she just dropped it and resisted talking about it anymore. I wondered if all that was revealed in watching my immediate family go through the process, uncovering family secrets and connecting with far flung relatives, was just too much to consider for my daughter.

And so, here we are again, at the precipice of another major family event. Will my daughter embrace it? Will she be a distant observer and not feel connected to any of it? Will she reconcile that paper and blood can coexist in families? Will she feel something for these people…these strangers?

I would be lying if I didn’t say I had a lot of emotions about this family reunion. I’m excited to see kinfolk, but I don’t know how my daughter will fit this into her lived experience. I’m not sure what being sensitive looks like here. I’m sure I’ll figure it out, and hopefully maybe it won’t matter at all. Maybe, she will just slide in, grab a hotdog, sit down next to a distant cousin who is cute and figure it out. Sometimes she can be a total boss like that.

Taking my daughter to my/our family reunion is expanding her union and that feels really, really significant. I try to think of our biological families as tied together by us—similar to how families are joined in marriage—ours is joined in adoption. I think a lot about how unbalanced it already feels sometimes, and I wonder if and how this will add to that?

I wouldn’t want to not take Hope as that sends a dangerous signal. Hope is my daughter. Hope is my sole beneficiary to everything that’s mine. She is my lovely, beautiful girl. She is my daughter. Of course, she goes to the family reunion.  Duh! That’s a non-starter.

But there’s always another side to things and that’s Hope’s feelings about it.

I’ve asked her about it. She hasn’t said much. So, I guess I’ll press forward, put on my family reunion t-shirt on Saturday morning, see if Hope puts on her family ‘union’ t-shirt and see what happens. Whatever happens I’ll be there for her as usual.


Both And

I posted something on my FB page a few days ago that I’m sure was rather inflammatory towards adoptees. l hate that it was inflammatory. I appreciate a good pal on Twitter engaging me on the post. All that said, I’ve left it up, despite the fact that I think the author is a bit of a hack.

I’ve you’ve followed the blog for a while, or just dug into the archives, you’ll know that I’m a huge adoptee fan, almost groupie level sometimes (see FB posts about Angela Tucker and the goodies I recently received). They’ve given me so much insight into what must be going on inside Hope’s head. They are an invaluable voice in adoption, and I’m going to keep listening because I know they make me a better mom.

But I’m also an AP who’s often in her feelings about what brought her to adoption, how hard raising a kid is, how hard raising a kid with some issues is, how sad and depressed I get, how hard I fight to stay above water, how hard I have to suppress my own ‘stuff’, how I feel I’m failing at this parenting thing, much less this AP thing that seems to require more of me than I ever imagined and the list of feelings goes on and on.  I have this identity that goes beyond being Hope’s mom.

The truth is, I’ve had to make peace in my life that I’m probably not as happy as I thought I would be as a parent. Another truth?

I sometimes wish I had just left my life alone. I’ve said before it was a good life.  Uttering this truth is a scary, ugly thing.

Getting all the stuff you thought you wanted in life, is well, not all it’s cracked up to be. And it’s not that I want more stuff, it’s just everything is tinged with loss…like everything is tinged with loss.

I am a parent to a daughter whom I adore, but I am unable to birth children—a truth that pains me greatly. I can’t *fix* my daughter’s troubles—a truth that is so complicated it just sucks; I mean I can help her heal but…I don’t know where it will take us. Relationships with family and friends are so different—some have thrived but many are irrevocably changed and not necessarily for the better. I lost my church—I grieve this nearly as much as the loss of my fertility because it shook the foundation of what I believe spiritually. Dammit, even my dog The Furry One passed away; he was one of few constants that joined Before AP and After AP. I could go on, but why, right?

Since I wrote my last pissy post on the drama in adoption support groups, I’ve largely shied away from them. Many of them are simply not safe places. They aren’t healthy and they aren’t supportive because it feels like everyone is fighting to see who is hurt more, playing vocabulary police, lots of “if you can’t take it, you shouldn’t do XX,” lots of name calling and lots of power plays.

Frankly, I’m grateful that I didn’t join any groups before I adopted Hope; I probably would’ve dropped the whole adoption thing and that would’ve been awful.  I might be sad about parts of my life, but I love that Hope is my daughter.

My mother has told me for years that hurt people hurt people. This is probably one of the truest things she’s ever said.

I look at support groups, and I see a bunch of marginalized folks—APs, Birth Parents, Adoptees—squabbling over their experiences and the validity of their feelings in the adoption experience.

The things about feelings is that whether we externally get them validated or not, we feel what we feel—the good, the bad, and the ugly.

And yes, we are all marginalized groups when it comes to the general public. Here’s my diversity breakdown: We’ve all got these images that we rally against—APs are “saviors”, Adoptees are the “lucky saved” and Birth Parents are the folks kids are “saved from.” This is a super simplified version, so work with me. That’s all the general public knows and sees of this community. And unless we are an obviously adoptive family, we move through the world like a duck—smooth on top, paddling like hell underwater. The world doesn’t understand our trials, and frankly they don’t want to hear about them because that breaks the spell of the do-gooder narrative.

So, where does that leave us? It leaves us to build community among ourselves with a power structure that mimics our marginalization. Saviors on top, everyone else on the bottom. Is it really any wonder why folks get mad? Why comments go from pleasant to fury in a hurry? It shouldn’t shock us.

Add to the fact that everyone hurts in some way, and online support groups are a powder keg.

Now, the point of me writing this post is really about me working through my own feelings when I engage online. I recognize my privilege, I try to stand down and help amplify voice, I try to be a good ally, and I hope to get better at that as I grow. I also realize that with this privilege it’s tough—and not fair–to ask other marginalized people to give us APs a break sometimes, but well…the truth is we could use a kind word and a turned cheek sometimes too. I say and do stupid ish on an hourly basis, I’m sure other folks do to. Sometimes we all just need to give each other a break.

what it is2

Holistically, our experiences and feelings with other members of the adoption triad isn’t really either/or, it’s both/and. None of us in the triad seem to get the communication thing right a lot. All of us type through pain and muck. It’s easy to forget that our experiences are our own, they are anecdotal; they can’t always be generally applied. It’s easy to forget that we’re supposed to be on the same team. It’s easy to forget that we all just want to raise healthy families in supportive environments and that every engagement doesn’t have to be a PhD crash course what we’re all doing wrong—this goes for everyone in the triad; it’s true for us all.

It should be all about the both-and. Always the both-and.

It should be about compassion. It should be about hope and caring. It should also be about education, but also mindful of delivery and purpose for all of us.

It doesn’t mean that there won’t be disagreements or even all out rows, but it doesn’t have to be nasty, it doesn’t have to be discouraging, it doesn’t have to be diminishing, it doesn’t have to be dismissive.

It can and should be supportive; it should be uplifting, it should be encouraging, it should be challenging in ways that improve not tear down.

try

So my call for the whole community, is to just try to do better. And since this is The Year of the Try, the success can simply be found in the attempt to meet each other where we are.

Just try.


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